Tuesday, 24 November 2009

How many pigs does it take
to drain a fountain?

Twenty-one people were thrown out of their home today by no less than a six-hundred strong force of Berlin's finest.

A little over a week ago - or three entries down this page -, in observance of Veterans' Day, I embedded a map of the intersection where Veteranen-Str. becomes Invaliden-Str. I thought it an appropriate reminder: how they are sent off, willingly or not, to maim and be maimed.

I mentioned that that intersection - where the proverbial veteran turns into the unseen invalid - was once one of my favorite here in town.

No longer? Not so much.

For those who don't believe in squatters' rights, read no further. Nothing I say here will change your attitude, let alone your mind. Not even the revelation that the circumstance I now wish to reveal hardly can be said to involve your standard squatted house. Seven of those evicted had valid leases, the rest were renting month to month, because their attempt to purchase the building outright failed when it went to the current owner at auction.

But before I get to other specifics of this case, I should mention that in The Netherlands, that bastion of liberal egalitarianism, where when a piece of property remains unoccupied and devoid of furnishing for over a year, one can gain rightful access to, and occupy the premises by notifying the building owner and the police of his or her intention to squat, and bringing a bed and table and chair with. At least that was the case until recently, when the current government enacted a new law, effective the end of this year, when all squatters who refuse to vacate (you can imagine that there might be more than a few) are going to face a year in jail (where they'll have a bed and table and chair).

Back in Berlin: The building in the photos is on Brunnen-Str. at that same intersection where the veteran loses vertical mobility. Where better for a massive armed corps including a helicopter flying above (undermanned in Berlin according to their Chief) to act on behalf of one private citizen?

The storefront of the building housed the Umsonst Laden (free store) where you could take or trade anything to your liking or need, the kind of stuff you might find at a salvation army.
How fitting, then, that a scant few days after the 20th birthday of the crumbling of The Wall, this piece of arbitrarily bought and sold property is back in the hands of a law-abiding capitalist?

But it wasn't just a sporadically rented, randomly squatted house that got cleared out today. It was a house project, whose residents hosted events for people who weren't that interested in the kinds of things most are interested in.

These include: folk's kitchens, where meals are cooked and served to a community not keen on dining in overpriced restaurants even when they could; concerts for those who are tired of commercial pop-punk or techno that this city is also known for (I've played there a few times, but enjoyed more performances as a spectator); film nights featuring that which doesn't appear on the bigger screen; community organization, plain and simple.

Oh, but what about the owner? Well, after years of wrangling, during which the state senate got involved as intermediary, it became clear that the man who claims to want to establish a symbiotic, multi-generational living complex was not interested in dealing with the occupants of an already established symbiotic, multi-generational living complex.

Out of fear of further endangering the innocent, I can't mention the greatest service provided to those dwellers who didn't have rental contracts. Suffice it to say that Brunnen, which means fountain, was not an asylum, just a resource.

And here, a taste of the execution